Archive: Apr 2022

The Most Cost-Effective Way to Improve a Material Handling System

Comments Off on The Most Cost-Effective Way to Improve a Material Handling System

worker on ipad trying to improve material handling

Anyone who works in material handling—or the process of moving, processing, and storing materials—knows how even a small issue can snowball into a bigger and more expensive problem. One machine breaks down, and production stalls. One ingredient spoils, and the entire batch is compromised.

What material handling issue gives you the biggest problems? What are some “quick fixes” that you can make that can make a big difference in production speed, quality, and cost? In this post, let’s look at how some companies improved their material handling system and its impact on their bottom line.

Frequent Downtimes

A US-based utilities company uses bituminous waste coal, a mining by-product, to produce clean energy. The thick material—which contains sandstone, clay, and moisture—had a tendency to cake in the feed chutes.

Workers had to enter the chutes to chip at the blocks. This occurred 15 times during each 12-hour shift, taking 20 minutes each time.

Manual cleaning caused downtime and increased labor costs. Workers were also unnecessarily exposed to dust, which can cause damage to the respiratory system through prolonged or repeated inhalation.

The company replaced manual cleaning with an AirSweep system. The AirSweep VA-51 can activate 6 to 8 feet in diameter of material and is effective even for heavy materials such as sandstone and clay.

After installing AirSweep, the plant no longer experienced plugging concerns in the feed chute. They experienced improved productivity and had lower energy costs compared to previous flow aids. “The AirSweep units paid for themselves within 2 weeks!” said the plant engineer.

Poor Product Uniformity

One of the world’s largest tire manufacturers uses carbon black to improve durability and performance. It conducts heat away from the tread and belt area and can reduce rolling resistance.

However, carbon black has a tendency to pack and leave deposits. Bridging above the hopper discharge caused frequent delays, and the material residue led to off-spec batches that had to be discarded.

The company tried fluidizers, but despite running continuously (and consuming a lot of plant air), these still left material residue.

AirSweep proved to be the more cost-effective solution for material handling efficiency. The system flushed away all carbon black residue and used less energy because the pulses were pulsed in a specific sequence and positioned at problem spots.

“AirSweep has provided us with reliable flow and reliable batch uniformity,” said the manufacturer’s engineering technology specialist.

conveyer belt improving product uniformity

Slow Loading Times

One of the biggest challenges of bulk material handling is loading the final product for transportation to the end-user.

For many years, a major distributor of granulated sugar with multiple locations across the United States had issues with unloading sugar from railcars. Sugar has a tendency to attract moisture, and cake or clump during storage.

The company tried industrial vibrators, which actually made the material more compact. Operators had no choice but to enter the car or do rodding. This affected loading times and worker safety.

Finally, the company found a faster and safer solution: AcoustiClean Sonic Horns. These devices focus sound energy that pushes material in a fast, steady flow. The horns were attached to the railcar’s top access hatch, so all workers had to do was open the hatch and the discharge gate.

Material Pile-Up

If equipment fails, any material that is being loaded or processed can overflow and lead to a material pile-up.

If that occurs, it can take hundreds of manhours just to clean up the mess. A concrete company that processes 250 tons of gravel per hour calculated that it would take 3 people at least 3 hours to shovel one ton. “We would have to shovel for days!”

To prevent the problem, the company installed DAZIC zero speed switches on their conveyor system. Once equipment runs outside of pre-set speed limits, the switches send an alarm to the operator to stop operations.

The DAZIC Zero Speed Switches used by Barnes Concrete cost less than $900 each, and have not broken down after more than a decade of use.

Can We Help You?

Small fixes can give big results. Your material handling system can be improved without very expensive investments or complicated installations and changes to your process. In fact, our AirSweep ROI calculator will show you how our system can actually help you save money, compared to your current flow aids.

Contact us and we’ll be happy to work with you to find a material handling solution and a customized ROI.

3 Ways AirSweep Can Help You Be More Environmentally-Friendly

Comments Off on 3 Ways AirSweep Can Help You Be More Environmentally-Friendly

Earth Day is just around the corner, and we want to share how AirSweep is an environmentally-friendly flow aid solution!

One of the biggest challenges of the manufacturing industry is sustainability and how to reduce our carbon footprint. Many companies – including some of AirSweep’s biggest clients – are actually rethinking their process to:

  • Lower energy consumption
  • Shift to more environmentally-friendly materials
  • Reduce or reuse waste material

3 ways AirSweep can help you be environmentally friendly


That’s where AirSweep can help.

Get better flow with less energy. AirSweep uses less plant air and energy than other flow aids, including fluidizers, air cannons, vibrators, and air knockers.

Reduce material waste. A commercial bakery had to throw away 40 pounds of mixture a day because stagnant material would spoil or contaminate the next batch. AirSweep reduced material retention by 90%.

Work with any material. With AirSweep, plants can use any recyclable or renewable materials, even those that have challenging flow properties. For example, it works on plastic regrind, recycled carpet material, and ground oat hulls (a waste material that can be turned into biomass fuel).

Contact us to find out more about how AirSweep can help a company’s efforts to increase productivity and sustainability.

3 Ways to Improve the Efficiency of Material Handling Equipment

Comments Off on 3 Ways to Improve the Efficiency of Material Handling Equipment

Man on forklift handling material

Material handling equipment stores, moves, controls or protects material as it goes through different processes in warehouses, plants, and other facilities. These are designed to carry large loads and improve production speed and safety.

Types of Material Handling Equipment

“Material handling equipment” is a broad term, and covers everything from the simplest shelf to complex, fully-automated systems. However, equipment generally falls under four general categories:

  • Bulk material handling. Used to store loose powders or solids and transfer these to the next processing stage. Includes silos, hoppers, reclaimers, conveyor belts, stackers, and bucket and grain elevators.
  • Engineered systems/automated systems. Removes the need for manual labor to significantly improve productivity, quality control, and plant safety. Includes automated storage and retrieval systems (AS/RS), automated guided vehicles (AGVs), robotic delivery stems, and conveyor systems.
  • Industrial trucks. Used to stack, load, and transport materials. Includes hand trucks (also called dollies), side loaders, pallet trucks, and order pickers.
  • Storage and handling. Stores and organizes materials. Includes bins and drawers, mezzanines, racks, and stacking frames.

While bulk material handling systems are made up of reliable machines, there are several problems that can still plague production.

Plant manager with material handling equipment

Prevent Spillage with DAZIC

Spillage can stop production, waste materials, and lead to hours of difficult clean-up. It typically occurs at loading points if the upstream conveyor is too fast, or because of a steep incline that causes the material to slump back. Spillage can also occur at discharge points if the flow rate is too fast.

DAZIC zero speed switches can be attached on any material handling equipment that is part of a conveyor system or other shaft-driven process components. The switches stop operations when a machine slows down, stops, or deviates from standard operating parameters.

Barnes Concrete Co., Inc, a ready-mix concrete manufacturer, has used DAZIC to prevent spillage issues. Their feeders load 250 tons of gravel per hour; if any of that equipment failed, it would take three people at least three hours to shovel one ton of gravel. “It would be a nightmare if the DAZIC didn’t shut the conveyor belt down. I don’t even want to think about it,” said the plant supervisor.

Ensure Material Flow with AirSweep

Some materials have poor flow properties and have a tendency to block the discharge. Problems can occur if:

  • The material is cohesive enough to form bridges and ratholes
  • The material is a fine powder that behaves like liquid when aerated
  • The material is prone to sifting segregation
  • The material is hygroscopic and can cake or clump in humid plant environments

Flow properties must be considered when selecting the design of the material handling equipment. For example, hopper walls must be steep enough and should not generate too much friction, and the feeder should be able to discharge the material across the entire outlet cross section.

Material tests can determine the flow behaviors by measuring its cohesive strength, internal and wall friction, bulk density, and the gas permeability of fine powders. Ideally, the tests replicate the handling conditions such as temperature and humidity, moisture content, and time at rest.

Some vessels are pre-equipped with fluidizers to activate material. However, these are only effective for fine powders that respond to gentle aeration. It is more cost-effective to use a flow aid like AirSweep, which can activate even wet, sticky, or heavy materials.

AirSweep can be mounted on any vessel with simple tools, and installation can be completed within just a few days. Various companies have found AirSweep to be more effective than fluidizers, air cannons, and industrial vibrators.

Clear Dust and Powders with AcoustiClean

Materials like gypsum, flour, and sawdust are naturally dusty; processing methods, such as rough mechanical handling, can also create dust. This can affect worker safety since many materials can cause respiratory problems or even fatal lung disease after continuous exposure.

In some cases, dust or fine powders can affect the material handling equipment’s efficiency. The dust can affect heat transfer efficiency, and eventually cause it to clog and break down. This was the problem experienced by a US-engineered wood manufacturer, who had issues with soot accumulating in the boiler. Unfortunately, soot blowers warped in the furnace’s intense temperature.

The manufacturer replaced the soot blowers with AcoustiClean sonic horns, which produce high-energy, low-frequency sound vibrations that disperse dry material from material handling equipment. The cast-iron horns can withstand temperatures up to 2000ºF and require very little maintenance.

Customized Solutions for Every Process

Every process and material will have its own challenges. We work with you to understand your needs, and then customize a solution that can improve plant productivity, efficiency, and safety. Contact us to find out more about what AirSweep, Dazic, and AcoustiClean, and how they can be integrated into your process.